Monday, January 12, 2009

Olmert’s security cabinet revives discussion of opening phase 3 of OCL (see 1/9), agreeing to make a final decision whether to expand or wind down operations within 2–3 days, by which time the IDF believes ground forces will have done all they can from the open and suburban areas they currently hold to weaken Hamas’s ability and desire to fire rockets.

Combat notes: The IDF significantly increases attacks, particularly around Gaza City, and continues to send troops into Gaza. Palestinians report (AYM 1/12) heavy clashes with the IDF n. of Bayt Lahiya, in Daraj and al-Shuja‘iyya neighborhoods on the eastern boundary of Gaza City, and in Dahadih and al-Zaytun to the south of the city. Overnight, the IDF also sends troops back into Khuza (see 1/11) under heavy artillery fire (possibly including white phosphorous), occupying a number of homes as staging posts and prompting 1,000s of residents to flee their homes.

The IDF reports carrying out more than 120 air strikes (half of them after nightfall, targeting Gaza City), uncovering 1 boobytrapped home and 2 booby-trapped tunnels. Targets include the PA Interior Min. offices in n. Gaza, more than 35 tunnels on the Rafah border, homes of Hamas leaders, at least 22 mortar and rocket launching sites, at least 26 groups of armed men, at least 10 “Hamas outposts,” 2 suspected weapons depots and manufacturing facilities, 2 mosques, 2 hotels. Air strike target areas include Bayt Lahiya, Gaza City (city center and Shaykh Ridwan, al-Sudaniyya, Tal al-Hawa, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya town, al-Maghazi r.c., Nussayrat, Rafah, al-Shabura r.c., al-Shuka, Tal al-Za‘atar, the Twam area (northern outskirts of Gaza City), Yibna r.c. IDF gunboats shell Nussayrat, Rafah, a fishing port w. of Rafah. Heavy tank and artillery fire are reported in Bayt Hanun, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (al-Shuja‘iyya, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya town, al-Mughraqa, Twam.

Israeli attacks are so intense that reliable updates on Palestinian casualty estimates are not possible. The IDF estimates killing at least 30 Palestinians in air strikes. UNRWA reports at least 19 Palestinian children killed and 52 children injured in nighttime operations (possibly overlapping with air strikes), 1 paramedic killed by tank fire in Jabaliya during the day. The IDF reports 8 soldiers wounded (1 severely, 1 moderately, 6 lightly) in various incidents, all after nightfall; 3 of the soldiers are injured when they trigger a setup in a booby-trapped house.

Palestinians fire 17 rockets and 7 mortars into Israel, with 1 rocket in Ashqelon and 1 in Sederot causing damage but no reported injuries.

Humanitarian notes: The IDF observes the daily 3-hr. humanitarian lull, allowing 120 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. UNRWA estimates that internally displaced Gazans number now 90,000: 30,000 seeking shelter in UNRWA schools; 60,000 in the homes of friends and relatives. (AP, AYM, BBC, HA, IDF, IFM, JP, MA, MM, al-Ra’i, REU, RFM, WP, YA 1/12; HA, MM, NYT, REU, WP, WT, YA 1/13; AYM, HA, MM, NYT, WP, WT 1/14; PCHR 1/15; BBC, WJW 1/16; ITIC 1/19)

In the West Bank, unidentified armed Palestinians fire on an IDF patrol nr. Kiryat Arba settlement, wounding 3. In response, the IDF raids, searches Palestinian homes nr. Kiryat Arba, making no arrests. The IDF also conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Hebron. (HA 1/13; PCHR 1/15)